Tips For Growing Flowers In Your Yard Or Garden

Tips For Growing Flowers In Your Yard Or Garden

Nothing enriches and livens up a yard or garden like vibrant, radiant flowers. Maintaining these delicate, aromatic plants is one of the most gratifying hobbies a homeowner can take up. But each species of flower has its peculiarities and requirements, so keeping a lush assortment can be challenging. This problem becomes compounded for beginners as mastering the basics alone can be time-consuming and challenging. To help lessen this floral learning curve, we’ve compiled a list of essential tips and tricks to help grow flowers in your yard or new garden. 

Keep Your Soil Enriched

Understanding soil is the first step in becoming a better gardener; it’s the literal foundation on which your garden will be built. Soil is a complex and broad topic, the entirety of which is beyond the scope of this article. But, what follows are a few essential soil qualities to nurture when starting your flower bed.

Soil Texture

A good indicator of a soil’s viability and health is its texture. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of soil: sandy, clay, and loam. Sandy soil is very loose and has drainage issues. Clay soil is extremely dense and thick, retaining too much moisture and too dense for new plants to grow. Loam is the ideal soil, as it comprises equal parts sand, silt, and clay. Loam is soil that possesses a good crumb or texture. It should be similar to cookie crumble, be loose, and have a fluffy, granular feel. If your soil’s texture isn’t ideal, don’t fret because you can’t change it. Instead, you should adjust the type of plants and flowers you’re going to grow to match the texture of your soil. 

Soil pH

Soil pH is the measurement of a soil’s acidity. Some plants prefer highly acidic soil, while others prefer soil with little to no acid. Generally speaking, flowers prefer as neutral a pH as possible. While there are many DIY guides online for determining a soil’s pH level, they can be tricky and prone to human error. Instead, consider some commercial products for testing a soil’s pH level: 

  • At-home testing kits: These are soil tests that function by adding chemical dyes with water and soil. This dye creates a corresponding color that represents your soil’s pH. These are easy to use but not very accurate. 
  • Testing strips: These kits work by dipping a strip of paper into a mixture of soil and water. The paper will change color depending on the pH level of the soil. These are relatively accurate, with lab grade versions being the best and most expensive. 
  • Electronic meters: There are electronic meters that directly measure soil moisture and pH. They resemble large metal needles or plastic turkey basters that you stick into the ground. These meters vary wildly in accuracy, with the cheaper, non-powered, metal-tongued variants nearly useless. The more expensive, powered, plastic tube testers are accurate and reliable. The only thing to remember is that these meters work best with wet soil, so it’s best to use them after it rains for precise measurements. 

As a general rule, adjusting soil pH for most at-home flower beds isn’t recommended, as it can be complicated and time-consuming. However, if your plants are sensitive to soil pH, or your pH is particularly extreme, you may need to do so. Most plant species excel in soil with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0, with 7.0 being pure neutral. To raise a soil’s pH, in other words, lower its acidity, you need to add substances like iron sulfate. Sphagnum peat is the best and easiest way to do this for at-home gardens. Apply a 1 to 2-inch layer of sphagnum peat to the top foot of soil in your garden, then slowly work the peat into the soil. Raising a garden’s acidity is much easier than lowering it, thankfully. Many acidifying fertilizers on the market work well in adding acidity – look for fertilizers with ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate, and monoammonium phosphate. Remember that adjusting soil pH is a long-term process that may require you to apply acidifying or de-acidifying materials continuously. 

Drainage

One of the critical elements of good soil is its ability to drain water efficiently. If your soil is too dense, it will retain moisture for too long. Overly wet soil can lead to numerous problems such as root rot or attracting pests. Soil with good drainage should be loose, fluffy, and not too dense or clumped together. If your soil is too thick or lacks proper moisture retention, adding materials like mulch, compost, or pyrite will help. 

Remove Weeds Early and Constantly

Weeding is a constant and tedious chore that is unfortunate for all gardens and flower beds. Weeds choke out your plants, absorb nutrients, steal moisture, and look unsightly, so keeping them out is necessary. Here are some of the best practices for removing and reducing the spread of weeds: 

  • Remove early: Removing weeds before planting and tilling is extremely important. If given time to mature and adequately grow seeds, they will release them and spread the problem when pulled. Nip this problem before it becomes one by pulling weeds before they fully develop. 
  • Utilize landscaping fabric: Landscaping fabric is a protective cloth sheet that protects your beds from weeds and pests while allowing moisture to pass through. Landscaping fabric is applied above the soil, with small holes cut into for plants to fit into, with a small layer of soil and organic mulch on top of it. 
  • Use Mulch: While most effective when combined with landscaping fabric, even by itself, mulch helps deter weeds. 
  • Carefully water: Only water directly onto your plants. If you water the entire bed or spray around your plants, you will water weeds. 
  • Get them by the roots: Many of the most troublesome weeds have deep and established root systems. Pulling out the topmost stalks of weeds or raking them out is often not enough to kill them permanently. Dandelions and crabgrass are some of the worst offenders, with crabgrass being a perennial. To remove these persistent annoyances, you must dig up the weed’s root system. 
  • Weed often: To keep weeds under control, you should remove them at least once per week. 

Pick The Right Flowers 

Choosing the right flowers for a bed or yard can feel overwhelming. But it’s also the most satisfying part of the process. There is no shortage of options, but you should consider elements like your soil, humidity, and seasonal temperature when picking out your flowers. 

  • Soil: This was already covered above, but to summarize, you should check your soil’s texture, pH, and drainage to curate what plants will grow best in your beds. 
  • Humidity: This is the amount of moisture in the air and can impact what plants will thrive in your location. Certain plants react better to different humidity levels, so match your flowers with your region’s weather. 
  • Seasonal temperature: Similar to humidity, flowers are highly reactive to the highs and lows of temperature. Locations with colder springs or falls will be more restrictive on what plants grow there. Conversely, areas with blisteringly hot summers can fry more delicate flowers. 

Once you understand the factors that can limit or otherwise impact your choices, you should consider what you have to choose from. All garden plants can be broken down into several categories: annuals, biennials, perennials, vines, shrubs, bulbs, decorative grasses, and trees. There are technically more to this list, but this is the majority of the types of plants you will come across in any greenhouse or garden center. Each category serves a different purpose in your garden or bed composition and should work in concert to complement one another. Choosing the right plants comes down to understanding each one’s look and function.

  • Annuals: Annual flowers are one-shot seasonal flowers that add a burst of color and liveliness to any bed. These plants are not permanent and die off each year. You can use annuals to alternate, experiment, and customize your bed each season, trying different colors and combinations. Annuals add color and vibrancy to your garden – they come in every color and comprise hundreds of species. Annuals often serve the following functions in a garden: act as border plants, cover broad sections of a bed, intermix with dense foliage, add color or “pop” to keynote areas, function as cut flowers, or they can be used in containers to accent specific areas. Some of the most popular annuals are zinnias, marigolds, and impatiens.
  • Biennials: Biennials are the middle child between perennials and annuals. These plants last for two growing seasons or two years. Most biennials take the form of vegetables and herbs. However, there are some exceptions, such as foxglove, black-eyed Susans, poppies, and wallflowers. Biennials have less strict usage guidelines than annuals and perennials, mainly because there are so few of them. They’re most often seen as specimen plants, allowing their unique traits to stand out for a time before dying off. 
  • Perennials: Perennial flowers are the long-term workhorses of a garden. Seen as low-maintenance mainstays, these plants will return year after year. Perennial plants are usually more resistant and hardy flowers, thriving in wider temperatures and conditions. They need little maintenance besides the occasional deadheading. Like annuals, perennials come in any color and countless species and are one of the most popular plants in home gardens. These elements give perennials huge versatility, allowing them to fill just about any position in a garden design. You often see perennials as fillers for flower beds, border flowers, walkway liners, groundcover, backdrop flowers, etc. The most important thing to keep in mind with perennials is that they serve a purpose even when their flowers fade post bloom time; this lets them add a cover or accent greenery after flowering. Some of the most popular perennials are daylilies, dahlias, hostas, hibiscuses, lavender, peonies, and chrysanthemums.
  • Vines: While some species of vines can menace and choke out plants, many can be a welcome addition to your garden. Vines like morning glory, clematis, passion vine, or wisteria can add vertical color to any backyard section. If you want to add covering greenery, you should consider vines like the Boston ivy, Virginia creeper, or the Dutchman’s pipe. Vines are almost exclusively used to cover walls, archways, poles, or trusses. 
  • Shrubs: Shrubs are classified as any woody plant under 10 feet tall. Shrubs come in many different varieties, but most are used to add body and structure to ensembles. Besides trees, shrubs will be the largest plants in your bed and can act as a centerpiece or powerful accent. Shrubs can also be used as sculpted accents, hedge pieces, or combined to function as walls or dividers. Shrubs can be excellent additions but require more upkeep, such as pruning or sculpting.
  • Bulbs: Nothing says springtime like bright, illuminating bulbs. These are the easiest plants to grow and an investment since they multiply quickly. Bulbs are any plant that stores its life cycle inside an underground structure. They’re most often perennials and will come back year after year and in greater numbers. Bulbs are known for their massive explosion of color in the early spring and summertime. Some of the most popular species are daffodils, tulips, Spanish bluebells, hyacinths, snowdrops, and lilies. Bulbs are highly versatile but often cover entire beds, decorate the bottoms of trees, backdropping lower-lying flowers, and border gardens. Bulbs can accent rock gardens, cover foundations, or add color to shrubs and bushes. 
  • Decorative grasses: “Decorative grasses” and “ornamental grasses” refer to true grasses, like feather reed grass or miscanthus grass, and grass-like plants such as sedges or reeds. Some species are perennial, others annual, and some flower while others don’t. Because of the broad spectrum that decorative grasses cover, they can, in turn, serve a variety of purposes in a garden. They can work as accents, border plants, or centerpieces. They can perform many of the roles covered by shrubs and bushes and are easily substituted. Certain flowering grasses can even serve as gorgeous potted plants, highlighting or accenting points of interest. 
  • Trees: Trees used for landscaping and gardening contain three categories: shade, ornamental, and evergreen. Shade trees have massive canopies that provide thick shade. Ornamental trees usually are deciduous and flowering. On the other hand, evergreens keep their leaves all year round and are often a type of pine. Trees are almost always the centerpiece of a garden or backyard. Because of this, if you’re going to utilize decorative trees, you should decide on the tree first and plan your garden around it. Some smaller species, like dwarf Japanese maples, can also be accent pieces. 

Choose the Right Location 

Choosing the right location for your plants serves more than a decorative purpose. Flowers require the right amounts of direct sun and shade, so their placement is crucial for their health. For plants that require direct sunlight, position them out in the open, away from taller plants like trees and shrubs. Conversely, for plants that need shade, consider placing them alongside bushes, beneath trees, or along the sides of your home or fence. 

Properly Prepare Your Beds

Before you can plant flowers, prepping your garden bed is necessary. The soil needs to be the right consistency for your flowers to thrive. Before mixing the soil, you need to ensure it’s damp enough. Dry soil will be difficult to till, and forcing it can damage the soil structure, while too wet soil will compact beneath you. The soil should be moist, but not so wet that it leaves water on your tools. The ideal moist soil should be workable while still crumbling when dropped or shifted. Using tools like a trowel, garden fork, tiller, or spade, turn over and loosen the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. While doing so, you can mix in additional elements such as peat, fertilizer, clippings, or organic matter to improve soil quality. 

Water Properly

Watering plants is an art form and requires time and practice with your plants to get the timing right. Most flower gardens need 1 to 2 inches of water per week – this amount can vary slightly depending on soil retention and the plants being watered. You should water one to two times per week, thoroughly watering your plants. It’s better for drainage and retention to water fewer times but more thoroughly. Always aim for the plant’s base, avoiding foliage and flowers to prevent mold growth. And finally, only water in the early morning or late evening, as watering in the full sun leads to evaporation. 

Final Thoughts

Growing flowers is a labor of love. It takes time, research, and dedication to make your yard or garden a vibrant landscape of color and beautiful flowers. After all the mud, sweat, and weeds are cleared away, it’s always well worth it. You can have a vibrant garden by better understanding soil levels, plant composition, bed position, and good gardening practices.

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